A top US military commander has conceded that the drone strike on a vehicle in August that killed 10 civilians including children was a mistake by the American forces.
Briefing reporters on the results of the investigation of the August 29 strike, General Frank McKenzie, the commander of the US Central Command said it was “unlikely that the vehicle and those who died in the drone strike were associated with ISIS-K or were a direct threat to US forces”.
Recall that the US during its final chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan, ISIS K launched suicide bomb attacks in Kabul killing 11 US soldiers and over 90 Afghans.
The US two days later claimed it had retaliated against ISIS-K using a drone strike against a vehicle that was loading bombs heading to the Kabul airport. The US military claimed it had killed at least one ISIS terrorist.
But on Wednesday, September 15, according to an investigation by the New York times findings, the drone strike didn’t kill any terrorists but rather two men who worked for a California-based humanitarian agency and children most of which were from the same family.
The US military after its own investigation, McKenzie, said that having thoroughly reviewed the findings of the probe and supporting analysis, he is convinced that as many as 10 civilians, including up to seven children, were tragically killed in that drone strike.
“It was a mistake, and I offer my sincere apology. As the combatant commander, I am fully responsible for this strike and this tragic outcome,” he told reporters at a Pentagon news conference.
“Moreover, we now assess that it is unlikely that the vehicle and those who died were associated with ISIS-K or were a direct threat to US forces. I offer my profound condolences to the family and friends of those who were killed. This strike was taken in the earnest belief that it would prevent an imminent threat to our forces and the evacuees at the airport,” he said.
Gen McKenzie said that 48 hours before the strike, sensitive intelligence indicated that the compound was being used by ISIS-K planners to facilitate future attacks.
“We were also receiving a significant number of reports indicating multiple avenues of attack, being planned simultaneously by ISIS-K would attempt to harm our forces, with rockets, suicide explosive vests, and vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices,” he said.
“In the 36 hours preceding the strike, our leaders at the airport and in the strike cell received more than 60 different pieces of intelligence related to imminent threats, with some corroborating and some conflicting with events observed from our UAVs flying above Kabul throughout the day,” the commander of the US Central Command added.
Also to condemn the strike is Joint Chief of Army Staff, General Milley who in a statement calling it “a horrible tragedy.”
“In a dynamic high-threat environment, the commanders on the ground had appropriate authority and had reasonable certainty that the target was valid, but after deeper post-strike analysis, our conclusion is that innocent civilians were killed,” Milley said in a statement.
“This is a horrible tragedy of war and it’s heart-wrenching and we are committed to being fully transparent about this incident,” he added.
Also, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin also apologized for the strike in a statement on Friday, and offered condolences to the family of Zamarai Ahmadi, the driver of the car targeted in the strike.
“We now know that there was no connection between Mr. Ahmadi and ISIS-Khorasan, that his activities on that day were completely harmless and not at all related to the imminent threat we believed we faced, and that Mr. Ahmadi was just as innocent a victim as were the others tragically killed,” he said.
Austin said he is directing a ‘thorough review’ of the investigation conducted by Central Command and the information that led the US military to conduct it.
He added that the military, when it has reason to believe it has taken an innocent life, “investigate it and, if true, we admit it.”
“But we also must work just as hard to prevent recurrence — no matter the circumstances, the intelligence stream, or the operational pressures under which we labor,” he added. “We will do that in this case.”
However, the Human rights group, Amnesty International In response called the admission an “important step toward accountability” added that Washington needs to take more steps, including paying reparations to family members and survivors of the strike.